ODSUE Visiting Committee Consults Students, Prepares Final Report
Thomas E. Murphy--The Tech
Members of the MIT visiting committee listen as students voice their concerns about current problems on Wednesday in the Bush Room.
By Zareena Hussain
At today's meeting of the MITCorporation, trustees will be briefed on the proceedings of the Visiting Committee of the Corporation investigating the Office of the Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education. The ODSUEVisiting Committee came to the Institute Wednesday and left yesterday afternoon after meeting with students, deans, and faculty to examine how the ODSUEis serving the student body. The committee will make recommendations to the Corporation as well as to ODSUEitself. These recommendations will ultimately take the form of a written report that will be circulated around the Institute in addition to today's presentation to the Corporation
Visiting committees visit every two years to report on a specific department at MIT. Although the ODSUEVisiting Committee came last year to evaluate what was then the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, members decided they needed to come back the next year to evaluate the office after the massive reorganization that took place within UESA, said ODSUEVisiting Committee Chairman DuWayne J. Petersen Jr. '55.
Students, deans voice concerns
A variety of concerns were brought to the fore in the form of open meetings of the ODSUE Visiting Committee with deans and students.
Students decried the lack of funding and support for student activities, the under-staffing of the Office of Counseling and Support Services, the faulty student advising system, the lack of openness in the administration to student input, the failure of the committee system in integrating students into the decision making processes at the Institute, and the vulnerability of small populations of underrepresented minorities at the Institute.
Administrators focused on MIT's competitiveness with peer institution and financial aid, along with quality of life issues. The committee was also asked to recommend solutions to several thorny questions, such as the role the office should play in defining guiding principles for residential and campus life. In addition, the committee was also asked to consider what role ODSUE should take in academic programming. ODSUE also asked the visiting committee to recommend how it could increase the resources allotted to the office in order to change the system.
Students invited to meetings
Students concerns were voiced in an open forum held Wednesday night. The forum was closed to deans so that students could feel free to voice their opinions candidly, Petersen said.
A variety of student opinion was represented at the meeting. However one large issue was not brought up for discussion in great detail. "I was really surprised that nobody talked about alcohol," said Noemi L. Giszpenc '98, who attended the hearing.
"I was pleasantly surprised that we didn't spend the entire evening talking about [it]," she said.
Students say events not advertised
Many students who showed up late to the open forum voiced concern that they were not informed that the ODSUEVisiting Committee was coming to MIT.
"It's pretty counterproductive to have a meeting where you solicit student input but most students don't know what's happening," said Anupama Pillalamarri '00.
Dean of Students and undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams responded that students were invited to meetings through advertisements in The Tech, information given to student leaders, information given to housemasters, and advertisement through academic departments. For the first time meetings of the visiting committee in addition to the open forum were open to students, Williams said.
"What more can we say than everyone is invited?" Williams said.
Activities funding discussed
One large area of student concern raised at the meeting was lack of funding for student activities as well as lack of administrative support for student activities.
"The money is important," said Russell S. Light '98, president of the Association of Student Activities. In addition, MIT does not have the space to hold large events and administrative assistance in planning events is sometimes lacking, he said.
One committee member said that from what he was hearing he sensed that there is no central place for students to go and no central source of support.
Undergraduate Association President Dedric A. Carter '98 agreed. "It's not clear who is there to support me to help plan this event," he said.
CP inconsistency discussed
Another issue brought up by another student was the lack of consistency with regards to Campus Police detail at parties on campus. Specifically, the student stated that there was an unfairly large number of police officers at parties held at Chocolate City.
Current policy states that there must be one campus police officer per 125 students attending a given event. While Chocolate City limited attendance at all events 125 students, police presence at Chocolate City parties have ranged from a low of four officers to a high of eight officers.
"Sometimes it feels there are more police at our parties than students," he said.
Another student added that in general the "dean's office seems very capricious in how they enforce certain rules...Groups they like are given essentially preferential treatment."
Another issue that was raised by several students was the dearth of counseling deans.
"When students go to make an appointment, the "counseling deans are overbooked," said Giszpenc.
Puja Gupta '00 described a feeling of disconnectedness from Counseling and Support services. She said that the only way for her to reach a counseling dean is through e-mail and that although she has been into the office three to four times this week, she could not shedule an appointment with a counseling dean until three weeks from now.
Students appreciate committee
Amidst complaints that not enough students were informed that the ODSUEVisiting Committee was meeting with students in an open forum, students who did manage to attend the meeting said that that committee members were receptive to their concerns.
"I could tell they cared," Gupta said.
"They were asking very good questions," said Duane H. Dreger '99, Interfraternity Council president, "They are with it. They know what's going on."
"I would encourage students to come to visiting committee meetings," said Alan B. Davidson '89, an outgoing member of the corporation who served on the ODSUEVisiting Committee.
"Most people at the Corporation want student input," Davidson said, "The reason they do this is because they love MIT."
Typically a Visiting Committee of the Corporation consists of 17 members, five are members of the Corporation, six are nominated by the Alumni Association, and six are nominated by the president after consultation with several departments, said Susan A. Lester, associate secretary of the Corporation.
Members of the committee also tried to stress to students ways they could get involved directly.
Five out of 70 members of the Corporation are recent students who are voted upon by their graduating class, said Chairman of the Corporation Alexander V. D'Arbeloff '61. Currently, five percent vote in any given election.